Oct. 11, 2018 By Christian Murray
A doctor and a nurse practitioner operating out a Woodside medical clinic prescribed millions of oxycodone pills to patients who didn’t need them and reaped millions of dollars in illegal profit, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
Dante A. Cubanbang, a physician, 50, and John F. Gargan, a nurse practitioner, 62, distributed the highly-addictive pills out of the Hope Physical & Rehabilitation Clinic, located at 51-23 Queens Blvd., according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. The pair worked with Michael Kellerman. 54, and Loren Piquant, 37, both employees of the clinic, as part of the scheme.
The four were among 10 New York City-based medical professionals who were charged today in relation to illegal opioid distribution. Prosecutors unsealed five indictments and a criminal complaint in federal court in Manhattan.
“These doctors and other health professionals should have been the first line of defense against opioid abuse,” Berman said in a statement. “Instead of caring for their patients, they were drug dealers in white coats.”
The Woodside operation distributed more than 6 million oxycodone pills—the equivalent of 180 kilograms of pure oxycodone– to individuals with no medical need between January 2012 and September 2018, according to the indictment. The clinic prescribed twice as many pills that were paid for by Medicare and Medicaid than the next highest prescriber in New York City.
Cubanbang and Gargan were paid $300 in cash per office visit, which typically lasted no more than a few minutes and involved little to no physical examination, according to the indictment.
Patients would fill their prescriptions at local pharmacies and sell the pills to drug dealers. According to court documents, a standard monthly supply contains 180 pills, and each pill has a street value of about $30.
Kellerman, who was the office manager and maintained the medical records, collected and laundered more than $5 million in cash office fees collected. Meanwhile, Piquant recruited patients off the street and bought pills off patients and re-sold them, according to the indictment.
All four have been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Cubanbang, Gargan and Kellerman are also charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
“These charges should serve as a warning to medical professionals who act like drug dealers and profit off the vulnerable individuals they should be helping,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Scott Lampert in a statement.
“Our entire country is suffering through an opioid abuse crisis, and we need to do everything we can to save as many lives as possible,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement. “We need to help people from falling back into a black hole of addiction and fatal overdoses. We have to push New York City and our nation to thrive, and to turn this epidemic around.”